Cilather’s Journey by Heather Morris is based on the gripping story of Cecilia Kovachova
The best-selling author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz is confronted with legal action after being accused of “lying” about the main character in her latest blockbuster.
Heather Morris’ new book ‘Cilka’s Journey’ is based on the real, moving story of Cecilia Kovachova who survived two of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century – Auschwitz concentration camp, where she was imprisoned at the age of 16 and subsequently a brutal Soviet gulag , where she spent nine years.
But Cecilia’s stepson, George Kovach, has accused her of writing “hurtful, destructive lies” and blurring the boundaries of fact and fiction.
Mr. Kovach told MailOnline from his home in Oakland, California: “We have been trying for a few months to deal with this great injustice that Cecilia has done.
“She was not a sex slave and did nothing about the things written by Morris. But her publishers have not even had the decency to respond to my letters.
In the book, Morris writes about the life of Cecilia (depicted with her husband Ivan around 1958) which the writer says was used as the sex slave of two SS commanders in Auschwitz
Cecilia (depicted in her later years in 1984 with husband Ivan and their grandson, Peter) was also accused by Morris of being a Nazi employee and sent to the Vorkuta gulag in Siberia
Best-selling author Heather Morris’s vivid representation of life in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp (pictured in 1945) is told in The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Cilka’s Journey
“It is now time to settle this in court. It will cost me a lot of money, but it will be worth it. I am determined to clear Cecilia’s name. She was a wonderful person, one of the great survivors of life and it makes me angry that she has been maligned this way. ”
Cecilia’s stepson George Kovach is suing the author for her imagination of his stepmother
New Zealand-born Morris uses the fictional character Cilka Klein to portray the wondrous survival of Cecilia, portraying her vividly as a sex slave of two SS commanders in Auschwitz.
After soldiers from the Red Army have freed the concentration camp, she is accused of being a Nazi employee and sent to the Vorkuta gulag in Siberia.
Cilka’s Journey is a sequel to Morris’s debut novel 2018, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, which became a worldwide hit and sold more than three million copies.
Bonnier Zaffre, the publisher of Morris in the UK, declined to comment on any upcoming legal action.
They insisted that Cilka’s journey be a fictional work based on factual testimonies that Morris collected during interviews with survivors of Auschwitz.
A spokesperson told MailOnline: “The central character in Cilka’s Journey is derived from first-hand testimony through conversations with survivors and extensive research in Slovakia.”
Cecilia (seen as a child with her father Mikulas Klein and sister) was sent to Auschwitz at the age of 16 – and then spent nine years in a Russian gulag for supposedly working with the Nazis
Cecilia was born in Bratislava in 1936. Here the Klein family is depicted in their car in the early 1940s before the entire family was sent to Auschwitz where they all died except Cecilia
Cecilia’s story began in Bratislava, where she was born in 1936. She was the daughter of a factory manager and the family, including her mother and a younger sister, lived in a middle-class suburb.
They were sent to Auschwitz because they were Jews. They were all killed except them.
After being liberated by the Russian Red Army from Auschwitz, Cecilia was accused of cooperating with the Nazis and having thrown in the Vorkuta gulag in Siberia for nine years.
In the brutal Soviet workshop, she met Ivan, who was sent there in 1948 after the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia after being accused of being a “class enemy.”
After their release from the Russian gulag in 1957, Ivan and Cecilia returned to Bratislava, which is now the capital of Slovakia. She died there in 2004, 68 years old.
Soviet soldiers are seen with some of the prisoners who freed them in the Auschwitz extermination camp in Oswiecim, Poland. About 7,000 prisoners were still alive when the camp was taken over
Prisoners in their cabin in Vorkuta Gulag (Vorkutlag), where Cecilia spent nine years until her release in 1957, one of the most important Soviet labor camps, Russia, Komi Republic
Mr. Kovach said: “If anyone knows the true story of Cecilia, it’s me. My stepmother’s name is used to make money from this book. This is all about dirty lucre; it’s that simple.
“For me this legal action is not about money, it’s about setting the record straight. Just because Cecilia is dead does not give you the right to write these disgusting lies about her. “
Heather Morris has been accused by her stepson of “hurting lies” about Cecilia
After firing a series of angry letters to Morris and her publishers, after the successful release of the book last year, Mr. Kovach’s lawyers believe that they have now determined that they have the right to bring the matter before an American court using the Slovak law, allowing the relatives of people to protect their reputation even after death.
Raymond Markovich, who represents Mr. Kovach, told MailOnline: “We have a valid claim under Slovak law that can be heard in a US federal court. There are many legal systems where you cannot take action against those who slander the dead, but that is not the case in Slovakia, where Cecilia lived until her death.
“This is a woman who survived the survived Auschwitz, a Soviet gulag, and when she died, she was mistakenly trapped in the garbage can. How can that be right? ”
Morris initially came across her story during the investigation into The Tattooist of Auschwitz, which is based on the life of the Slovak Jew Lale Sokolov.
Cecilia met her husband Ivan in the Russian gulag. Prior to his imprisonment, Ivan instructed his wife Helen to divorce him and flee to the west with their son George, fearing that she would be arrested. George would be sent to an orphanage. Father and son are reunited in 1967
Cecilia’s husband Ivan and his son George are seen here in 1946 in Prague. After George Europe was arrested by the Russians in 1948, they fled to Canada and then to the US
Cilka’s character appears briefly in this book as the sex slave of an SS commander, prompting the author to investigate her further, resulting in Cilka’s Journey.
During her research, Morris traveled to Oakland to meet Mr. Kovach, where she asked him to contribute photos and an afterword to the book.
During the meeting, Mr. Kovach explained to Morris how Ivan instructed his wife Helen to separate from him and flee to the west prior to his imprisonment because he feared that she too would be arrested and his son sent to an orphanage .
Mr. Kovach, then three and a half years old, and his mother escaped west in 1948, first to West Germany, then Canada, and then to the US, where they finally settled. Over the years she has managed to find information about Ivan through his family members with whom she kept in touch.
Kovach was reunited with his father in 1967 when he was 22 years old, rebuilding his relationship with him and also getting to know Cecilia and her inspiring story. He would meet them both regularly until the time of their death.
He said: “After reading some of her material, I made it clear that I didn’t want anything to do with this project.
“I asked not to publish the book, which would never happen or that they make it clear that Cilka is a completely fictional character. My father Ivan was also initially depicted in this novel. Readers are misled by what lies lies. “
Morris then removed Ivan from the book and replaced him with the Alexandr character.
Last year, Morris said about the book: “Cilka’s story is about burning injustice. She was just a girl, a teenager, who went through two of the worst periods in history and became a spoils of war. Only shame stopped women like them from talking about what had been done to them. I hope this book is about the transfer of that shame. ”
This is not the first time that Morris has been criticized for combining facts and fiction. The Auschwitz tattoo artist was slammed by the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center, which protested that it contained “factual inaccuracies” and was littered with “inconsistent information.”
Mr. Sokolov’s son, Gary, also expressed concern about “factual inaccuracies” in the book, while media reports suggested that he had huge problems with Morris because of money.
Morris replied at the time: “I don’t think it’s Gary; I think it’s his wife. She is fixated on what she says are some mistakes, but I said from the start that I am only telling the story that Lale told me. “